Five years on from the introduction of a new child car seat law, there is still huge demand from parents for information about how to keep their children safe on the road, says the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.
More than 129,000 visits to RoSPA’s child car seats website – www.childcarseats.org.uk – were recorded in August – an average of more than 4,000 visits per day. The only time the website has seen more traffic was in the weeks around the introduction of the new law, which happened on September 18, 2006.
Duncan Vernon, RoSPA’s road safety manager for England, said: “Even though it is five years since the child car seat law came into force, we still need to talk to parents about choosing and using car seats. People are starting families all the time and they are looking for information about what the law requires and about the types of seat available for babies. Likewise, the parents of toddlers and older children are looking for advice about when to move their children from one seat to another.
“The safest way for a child to travel in a car is in a child seat that is correct for his or her weight and size, and the law also requires this. Furthermore, the importance of properly fitting a child seat cannot be over stated, so that it works as it is designed to in a crash. We urge parents and carers – including grandparents who might drive their grandchildren – to ensure that a child’s seat is compatible with all the cars it will be used in, checking with the seat and car manufacturer if necessary and seeking expert help on fitting, perhaps from a retailer. The local council may also be able to recommend places or events where you can get the seat checked. We also encourage parents to check that the seat is fitted correctly before every journey, especially if they are regularly taking it in and out of the car.”
The law for children aged under three years in cars:
- Babies and toddlers MUST use a child seat appropriate for their weight. The ONLY exception to this law is for licensed taxis or private hire cars, in which under-threes may travel unrestrained in the rear if a child seat is not available. This exception has been allowed for practical rather than safety reasons and RoSPA advises that parents look for ways to make a seat available.
- Rear-facing child seats MUST NOT be used in the front passenger seat if there is an active frontal airbag. If you are using a forward-facing child seat, see what your car’s handbook says about frontal airbags – the advice can vary. RoSPA also recommends checking with your insurer regarding airbags.
The law for children aged three years and over in cars:
- Until they are 135cm tall (approximately 4ft 5in) or 12 years old – whichever comes first – children MUST use an appropriate child seat, whether travelling in the front or rear of a car. The exceptions in the rear of a vehicle are: in licensed taxis or private hire cars; if the child is travelling a short distance for a reason of unexpected necessity; if there are two occupied child restraints, which prevent the fitment of a third; or, if seat belts are not fitted. Planning journeys in advance is a good way to avoid having to rely on an exemption and to ensure that children are carried safely.
Child car seats are designed and tested for children in different weight ranges and that’s what parents should be checking when they are selecting an “appropriate” seat.
RoSPA advises against purchasing second-hand car seats because: you cannot be sure of their history, such as whether they have already been in an accident; the fitting instructions are often missing; and in some cases they might not comply with the latest standards.
When the new law was introduced, it was estimated that the move could prevent about 2,000 injuries a year among children on Britain’s roads. Indeed, the number of under-12s injured in cars has fallen from 7,034 in 2005 to 5,449 in 2009, although there has been no analysis of the part played by the child car seat law.
The creation of www.childcarseats.org.uk was funded by the Department for Transport. The award-winning website includes an overview of the law and the types of child seat available, advice about positioning and fitting child seats and RoSPA’s popular Carrying Children Safely film.
RoSPA’s mission is to save lives and reduce injuries